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INFO FOR VISITORS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

Like any major resort destination, Las Vegas caters to visitors with disabilities, particularly those with mobility issues. The transportation system is all wheelchair-friendly, although sometimes you'll need to plan your travel in advance if you require a special vehicle. See our dedicated section called Information for the Handicapped in Transportation for details about buses, taxis, limos, shuttles, the monorail, rental cars, scooter rental, and other useful tips for visitors with disabilities or mobility concerns.

What follows is some information about other aspects of your visit, gained in part from our own research and also from talking to other visitors with disabilities who've shared their experiences with us. We hope you find it helpful and welcome other feedback and suggestions - just email us here.

HOTELS

When it comes to catering to deaf and hearing-impaired visitors, Las Vegas seems to be fairly proactive. The city has more wheelchair-accessible guestrooms than any other city in the country and most hotels have rooms with roll-in showers, transfer showers, and tubs with built-in seats and/or portable seats. To the best of our knowledge it's now a federal requirement to permit seeing-eye dogs and to have Braille signage for room numbers, exits, and elevator numbers in all new properties. We can confirm that those hotels we checked with (including Bally's, Wynn, Terrible's, Venetian, Westin, and Planet Hollywood) confirmed that they were in full compliance with these minimal regulations.

TDD phone devices are generally available and both the Westin and Planet Hollywood, for example, informed us that they have special rooms with doorbells that set off flashing lights, should a deaf guest order room service or have a visitor. Planet Hollywood's accommodations for the hearing impaired also provide rooms with beds that vibrate to alert you if you have a phone message. Our understanding is that the majority of the larger hotels will have at least one room equipped in this manner, so be sure to inquire about availability at the time you make your booking if you'd like to take advantage of this amenity.

Not a single property that we've asked offers any Braille or large print menus, however (although the Venetian took our request very seriously and said that on the strength of our call, they would actually consider addressing this issue in the future, so we'll reinvestigate in due course). Each of the properties we've spoken with did stress that they'd be happy to provide a concierge to help orient a guest who was visually impaired and give them a basic tour of the property, plus they all also claimed that their wait (and other) staff would be more than happy to read menus and assist blind guests whenever necessary.

When it comes to pool access, most of the larger hotel pools have lifts to assist you getting in and out and some, like the Rio and Mandalay Bay, have beach access. Again, check when you make your reservation.

Our principle piece of advice is to find a property that you like and then explain what you need; we're pretty sure that most will be willing and able to accommodate your requirements. Since there's no shortage of hotels in this town, if your first choice isn't up to the task, simply call the joint next door and see what they can do for you.

ENTERTAINMENT

As far as shows go, Las Vegas has many entertainment options available and most hotels have assistive listening devices for the hearing-impaired available at the showroom or lounge entrance. Wheelchair seating is also available in most lounges and showrooms, although this is not always available as an option if you book online, so you may need to call the box office to arrange special seating requirements.

There's such a wealth of entertainment opportunities available that both visually and hearing impaired visitors should be able to find an enjoyable show, whether your preference is for a concert, musical, or comedy act or a visual spectacular like the numerous Cirque du Soleil productions or world-class magic and illusion acts. You can find current listings of all permanent shows and upcoming events, plus reviews and ratings for many productions, in our Entertainment & Nightlife section.

GAMBLING

All hotels have wheelchair-accessible slot machines and video poker, and most should also be able to accommodate you at their table games. Every pit we've approached has confirmed that they're happy to accommodate wheelchairs at their crap tables and place bets for patrons unable to reach, but some sounded happier than others and we did get the distinct impression from several that you'd be more welcome on slow shifts than at a full table, where they couldn't guarantee being able to help you. Again, Las Vegas is a buyer's market these days, so shop around (just call and ask for the shift supervisor) until you find a place that'll treat you right.

We can confirm that Wynn has two deaf blackjack dealers who know American Sign Language (one of whom also deals roulette) and Planet Hollywood also has one (who also deals three card poker). If you'd specifically like to play with a dealer who can sign, call the pit in advance to find out which days/shifts they're working.

The National Deaf Poker Tour was founded by six deaf men who wanted to bring the nation's best deaf players together, and to date they've already held tournaments at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, Foxwoods (Connecticut), and here in Las Vegas ( at Binion's). For further information about future Deaf Poker Tour events, check out our Tournament Schedule in the Gambling section (there's a tournament here at the Venetian in July, 2008) or visit www.nationaldeafpokertour.com.

As far as slot machines go, in 2002, with much fanfare, Bally Gaming Systems introduced its Ray Charles slot machine, specifically designed for visually impaired players. The game, which included audio cues and a Braille button deck, and featured Charles' rendition of "America the Beautiful," came about as a result of a close collaboration between the gaming manufacturer and the late artist, who lost his sight as a child.

The company received an Access Award from the American Foundation for the Blind for the innovation, but sadly the experiment was short-lived. As a marketing spokesman put it to us, the game as "a very noble experiment that frankly just never caught on." In spite of all the publicity, they sold very few models and in the highly competitive world of slot machines, the law of supply and demand rules. To our knowledge there are none of these machines left on any casino floor, whether in Las Vegas or elsewhere.

There is some good news for bingo lovers, however.The Electronic Dauber (TED for short) for visually and hearing-impaired bingo players were developed by a company called Game Tech International, based in Reno, and uses RF (radio frequency) technology, which basically plays the game for you, punching in card numbers as quickly as they come out of the bingo hopper and enabling the player to electronically "mark" as many as 57 bingo cards at once. An alert sounds if you're one number off a bingo and a little song plays if you win, so there's no chance of missing a winning card.

Although TEDs are particularly helpful to the visually impaired, they were originally developed with sighted players in mind, but were later equipped with optional Braille keypads, making them even easier to operate for those who have seeing difficulties.

The first casino to introduce TEDs was the Oneida Indian Nation's Turning Stone resort in New York state, but the devices have since been introduced in numerous casinos throughout the U.S. Other manufacturers, including Fortunet in Las Vegas, have brought out similar devices and all the bingo rooms that we surveyed had one version or the other. These included the Coast and Station properties, Arizona Charlie's (Decatur), Terrible's, Sam's Town, Plaza, and Fiesta Rancho. Both TEDs and Fortunets are available in B/W and color versions (the latter are usually $2 per session to hire, as opposed to $1 for the B/W - we've been told the monochrome versions are actually easier to read than the color ones).

No casino in Las Vegas that we've spoken to has the Braille overlays, but since the TEDs do all the work for you, they're hardly necessary.

For those who like their bingo a little more interactive, we understand that Gold Coast and Arizona Charlie's (Decatur) casinos also have Braille paper cards that are available upon request.